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London Transit tracking free bus rides for children 12 and under

The LTC says monthly passes will not be available for August, but tickets, cash, or stored value on a Smart Card will be accepted between Aug. 19 and 31.
The LTC says monthly passes will not be available for August, but tickets, cash, or stored value on a Smart Card will be accepted between Aug. 19 and 31. Marty Thompson/980 CFPL

If you offer it, will they ride? That’s what the London Transit Commission (LTC) hopes to find out.

Six months after the LTC started offering free rides to kids 12 and under, they’ve devised a plan to determine how many children are using the free ride program.

When London city council voted in favour of offering the free bus rides last year, they did so knowing the LTC didn’t have a way to track how many kids would take them up on the offer.

The solution, six months later, is to give all kids who want to use the free ride program a small, blue key fob.

READ MORE: London Transit Commission investigating damage after rider posts photo of holes in city bus

LTC chairperson Sheryl Rooth says the fobs are important.

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“It helps us with our ridership counts but it also does other things. It helps us understand ridership patterns, too,” she said.

Kids who want to ride for free are required to carry the key fob, as of June 1. Officials have been distributing the key fobs since early May. So far, about 4,000 families in the city have received one.

Free bus rides for kids 12 and under was one of the recommendations from Mayor Matt Brown’s anti-poverty panel. It will cost the city about $150,000 a year.

READ MORE: Transit announcement scheduled at LTC headquarters

Rooth says the free ride program will pay dividends now and in the future.

“The 12 and under free ridership is a huge deal. We’re not just assisting people in getting around the city, we’re also building a new generation of transit users,” she said.

City council also considered offering free rides to teens aged 13 and 14 but decided against it after LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny said it would increase costs since 13- and 14-year-olds pay full adult fare.

Before offering free rides to kids 12 and under, London didn’t collect any fares for children under age five. London’s decision came a year after the Toronto Transit Commission eliminated children’s fares.

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The key fobs, which are free, can be picked up at LTC bus depots at Dundas and Richmond and their headquarters at 450 Highbury Ave.

LTC staff will also be in the community June 3 to distribute key fobs. To see where they will be, click here.